National Advertising Division (NAD)
NAD Recommends Verizon Modify or Discontinue Some Superiority Claims for Fios, Finds Qualified “Fastest Speed” Claim Substantiated; Both Parties to Appeal
For Immediate Release
Contact: Abby Hills, Director of Communications, BBB National Programs
703.247.9330 / firstname.lastname@example.org
New York, NY – August 25, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recommended that Verizon Communications, Inc.:
Discontinue or modify claims that its Fios service offers the “fastest available” speeds and that it has the “fastest internet”;
Discontinue claims that Fios and fiber provide superior streaming or buffering, as well as claims that they provide superior reliability;
Modify claims that Fios supports more devices; and
Discontinue its comparative claim regarding fiber’s resilience in bad weather, that fiber technology delivers faster overall speeds, as well as unqualified claims that Fios and fiber technology provide superior performance.
The claims at issue were challenged by Charter Communications, Inc., provider of competing internet services. Verizon is appealing, and Charter is cross-appealing, certain NAD recommendations to the National Advertising Review Board.
The following are representative of the challenged claims:
- Fios is the “The fastest, most reliable internet available.”
“Fiber makes you faster. . . .”
“See the difference for yourself on the 100% fiber-optic network, Fios. Don’t settle for anything less than a 100% fiber-optic network. It’s the most reliable for all your devices, no matter how many you have in your home.”
“Fiber is better. . . . Business fiber internet is resilient, even during bad weather. You can rely on 99.9% network reliability and fast speeds to help your business get work done quickly.”
“What sets Fios apart? Fiber-optic technology for a better home connection. Seamless streaming . . . . Less buffering . . . .”
“With fiber you can connect more devices at once.”
“What sets Fios apart? Fiber-optic technology for a better home connection. Seamless streaming . . . . Less buffering . . . . More sharing . . . . Convenient bundles . . . .”
“Fiber makes you faster. . . . Fiber is better.”
With regard to the claim that Verizon offers the “fastest internet available,” NAD concluded that Verizon’s download speeds are unsurpassed but not superior to the competition, while Verizon’s upload speeds are superior to the competition. NAD considered whether Verizon’s fastest tier, offering download speeds of up to 940 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 880 Mbps is the fastest internet available given that competitors such as Charter also offer download speeds of up to 940 Mbps, but pair them with upload speeds of, for example, 35 Mbps. NAD noted that evidence in the record regarding marketplace usage supports the conclusion that “fastest internet available” claims should make clear if the claim is based exclusively on upload speeds or on a combination of download and upload speeds. NAD determined that having faster upload speeds does not make a network “per se” faster because the claim that Fios is “the fastest internet available” may be reasonably understood by consumers as a claim that Verizon offers the fastest download speeds. Therefore, NAD recommended that Verizon discontinue the claim that it offers the “Fastest Available” speeds, or clearly convey that it offers the fastest combined speeds (upload plus download). In doing so, it should take care to avoid conveying the message that it offers the fastest download speeds.
Further, NAD determined the challenged “fastest available” claims also convey the message that Verizon delivers superior speeds (in addition to conveying a message about the top available speeds). As support for its claim that Fios is the fastest nationwide ISP, Verizon relied on PC Mag speed ratings of ISPs, which used a sample size of 256,016 tests and showed that Verizon customers had both higher average download speeds and higher average upload speeds than customers of all major national competitors. NAD concluded that the PC Mag test was reliable. However, NAD determined that Verizon’s consumer preference evidence was not a good fit for the challenged superior performance claim. Therefore, NAD recommended that Verizon discontinue express and implied claims that it has the “fastest internet” for its Fios service, or modify them, to disclose, clearly and conspicuously, the source of the substantiation and, if it bases the claims on the PC Mag testing, disclose that it is a speed comparison aggregating service tiers.
NAD also found that the claims that Fios provides superior streaming or buffering were not substantiated and recommended those claims be discontinued.
NAD evaluated Verizon’s claim about the reliability of its Fios service, noting that with regard to internet service, reliability has at least two meanings: One meaning is the uptime of the service (the percentage of the time that it can be used), however Verizon submitted no evidence regarding the uptime of Fios or any other internet service. Whereas, the FCC’s Measuring Broadband America (MBA) reports measure reliability by the percentage of the time that a wired broadband provider delivers the advertised speed. NAD noted that the most recent MBA report says that most ISPs provide good consistency of speed, and therefore it did not support the claim at issue. Therefore, NAD recommended that Verizon discontinue the unqualified claim that Fios provides superior reliability.
NAD determined that Verizon’s claims that Fios supports more devices reasonably convey the message that consumers will experience a consumer relevant benefit. Because the evidence in the record did not show that Verizon’s superior upload speeds deliver a consumer meaningful benefit to the typical consumer, NAD recommended that Verizon modify those claims to explain which consumers would see a consumer relevant benefit.
NAD determined that Verizon’s comparative claim “Fiber is better. . . . Business fiber internet is resilient, even during bad weather. You can rely on 99.9% network reliability and fast speeds to help your business get work done quickly” conveys the message that Fios’ reliability in weather is superior to a degree that is consumer relevant. Although the advertiser submitted articles explaining that fiber is not susceptible to electromagnetic interference, NAD determined that neither discussed whether this difference translates into consumer relevant differences in weather-related disruptions. Therefore, NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.
With regard to overall superiority claims for fiber and for Fios, such as “What sets Fios apart? Fiber-optic technology for a better home connection” and “Fiber is better,” NAD found unsubstantiated Verizon’s unqualified speed superiority claim, and found that Verizon had not submitted information in the record sufficient to substantiate several of its other comparative performance claims. Therefore, NAD recommended that Verizon discontinue the unqualified claims that Fios and fiber technology provide superior performance.
Finally, Verizon voluntarily discontinued the claims that “90% of Fios® Business customers surveyed say internet speeds are better compared to their prior service provider,” and that Verizon Fios “is not vulnerable to slowdowns” and streams video “without buffering.” Therefore, NAD did not review these claims on the merits.
In its advertiser’s statement, Verizon stated that it will appeal NAD’s decision and noted its disappointment with NAD’s conclusion “that Verizon must qualify any ‘fastest’ speed claims.” Verizon’s statement noted that it was pleased that NAD accepted the results of a PC Mag test, which is the portion of NAD’s decision that Charter is cross-appealing.
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About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.